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Image and text in the construction of Greek national imaginaries. Pyrsos magazine in the GDR, 1961–1968

Ikoniadou, Mary (2018) Image and text in the construction of Greek national imaginaries. Pyrsos magazine in the GDR, 1961–1968. Doctoral thesis (PhD), Manchester Metropolitan University.

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Abstract

The thesis is a critical analysis of Pyrsos, an illustrated magazine published in the GDR between 1961 and 1968 by Greek political refugees, as a case study on the intersection of politics and visual culture during the Cold War. Drawing on the analysis of the magazine’s visual and textual language alongside archival research and interviews with its readers, the thesis demonstrates that Pyrsos’ efforts to construct, reclaim, perform and imagine the nation from exile were rendered visible in its design and as a result of dialectical juxtapositions that were conceived according to Brechtian artistic methods. The thesis demonstrates that Pyrsos intended to propagate the continuous struggles and patriotism of the Greek Left and prepare its diverse readership for repatriation, a position that was largely supported by its readers despite the different values, meanings and desires they invested in its discourse. The primary finding of the research is that Pyrsos’ nationalist/patriotic discourses manifested through Brechtian aesthetics such as anti-illusionism and estrangement/ distanciation practices, mobilised so to generate collective cultural and national identities. Pyrsos’ analysis focuses on two themes: its depiction of resistance and particularly the resistance of the Greek Left, and, its portrayal of the Greek landscape, namely the Aegean. The thesis situates the magazine’s conditions of production and distribution in relation to, the GDR’s foreign-language periodical productions; the Greek refugees’ publishing activities; contemporaneous left-wing press in Greece among youth magazines; and lastly, within the history of illustrated periodicals and international modernist graphic design practices in the 1960s. The thesis makes an original contribution to the under-researched area of illustrated magazines during the Cold War and in so doing offers a methodological model on approaching illustrated magazines as independent subjects/objects of research. Additionally, it complements scholarship on propaganda and contributes to discussions that seek to problematise binary Cold War narratives in art and design by broadening the spectrum of positions to include the aesthetic and political claims of refugee populations. Its contribution to the field of Brechtian theory and aesthetics is unique in its examination and critical analysis of the design and production of illustrated magazines. Further, it contributes to studies on nationalism by proposing an additional reading to the notion of patriotism. It considerably extends the limited scholarship regarding the aftermath of the Greek Civil War by offering a better understanding of the complexity of the political refugees’ cultural and national identities. Lastly, it contributes to scholarly discussions on populations that seek to challenge official narratives of nationhood while simultaneously claim belonging to the national body from which they have been expelled.

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